Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Orlando

While Orlando may be known as Mickey Mouse’s home, it’s got a lot more to offer. For foodies, there are hip and delicious restaurants. For nature lovers, there are more than 100 lakes in Orlando. And for kids, there are museums and hands-on activities. When it comes to things to do in Orlando, there’s something for everyone.

But because Orlando is so popular, it’s worthwhile to take some time and plan your trip to get the most out of it. There may be thousands and thousands of people there when you are, all looking for the best attractions in Orlando.

Here’s some help: a list of 10 fun things to do when at this magical Florida destination (some obvious, some off-the-beaten path), plus planning tips to help you have a great vacation.

Best Times to Go to Orlando

Weatherwise, Orlando is fairly mild year-round. Winters rarely dip below the 70s, and summers top out in the low 90s (though humidity can be an issue), making almost any time a great time to visit Orlando.

If you decide to travel off-season (September through April, when most kids are in school), you may be able to find travel deals, since there are fewer people traveling, and hotels and attractions may offer discounts.

If you’re looking to plan your Orlando trip around an event, there are plenty to choose from, including the following:

•  February to April: Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval

•  March: Central Florida Fair

•  March to July: EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

•  September: The International Food and Drink Festival

•  October: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal

•  December: ICE! at Gaylord Palms

Bad Times to Go to Orlando

Are there any times you shouldn’t plan your Orlando trip? If you plan to enjoy many outdoor activities, you might avoid visiting in the summer, since it can get pretty humid.

Also know that the usual school holidays and breaks will likely bring crowds to the area, making it take longer to see the sights and perhaps dealing with lack of availability of lodging, tickets, and so forth.

Recommended: How to Save Money for a Trip

Average Cost of a Vacation to Orlando

You’ll want to plan ahead for your Orlando trip, so knowing the costs can be helpful.

For a couple who wants to spend a week in Orlando, the average cost is $4,082. For a single visitor, the costs are about $2,273. Of course, the exact figure will depend on what attractions you see, where you stay, and how much you spend on dining and food.

Orlando hotels range from $60 to $305 a night, averaging $104. However, by doing your research, using points, and other smart moves, you may be able to save money on hotels.

In addition, you will need to get to Orlando. Many people come from all over the country (even the world) by plane to visit the city. If you are among them, research some travel hacks to get cheap flights to this travel hub.

10 Fun Must-Dos in Orlando

Whether you are traveling solo, with a partner, or with your family, you’ve got many options for activities and events. Here are some of the best things to do in Orlando, based on residents’ advice, tips from frequent visitors, and the best-rated attractions on online review sites.

1. Get Giddy at a Theme Park

One of the top things to do in Orlando is visit one of its many theme parks. You may have heard of Walt Disney World (disneyworld.com/), but did you realize it consists of four parks? You could spend days at Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.

Not to be outdone by Disney, there is also Universal Orlando Resort (universalorlando.com/), which contains The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Orlando also has a SeaWorld theme park (seaworld.com/orlando/), for those aquatic animal lovers.

Going to the parks can be pricey: One day at Disney World will cost anywhere from $109 to $189 for ages 10 and up; tickets to Universal also start at $109 per day; and SeaWorld tickets can be found for $57.99 to $134.99 a day, depending on promotions at the time you visit.

Yes, admission is pricey, but if you swipe or tap your plastic, you could earn credit card rewards when paying for them.

2. Pitstop Along International Drive

Near both Disney and Universal theme parks, you’ll find International Drive, an area full of things to do, places to shop, and restaurants to dine in. You can also drop into family-friendly museums like Madame Tussauds, WonderWorks, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! internationaldriveorlando.com/

3. Shop the Outlet Stores

On International Drive, you’ll find the Orlando International Premium Outlets, which attract visitors from all around the world. Shop brands like Adidas, Armani, Coach, Lacoste, and more, all at steep discounts.
https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/orlando-international

4. Stroll Through Lake Eola Park

If you want to experience the quieter side of Orlando, head downtown to the picturesque Lake Eola Park. In the center of the lake is a fountain, surrounded by swan-shaped paddle boats you can rent.

In the park, you can attend a musical event, theatrical performance, or movie at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, let the kids play on the playground, or enjoy the flora and fauna. Open from 6 am to 11:59 pm daily, Lake Eola Park is a fun free thing to do in Orlando, and it can be a way that families can afford to travel.

Also, if you’re traveling with a pet, it can be a top destination. Leashed dogs are welcome. orlando.gov/Parks-the-Environment/Directory/Lake-Eola-Park

5. Spend Time at Thornton Park District

Among the fun things to do in Orlando for couples: spending a few hours in Thornton Park District. Dubbed “downtown for grownups,” this neighborhood just steps away from Lake Eola offers fine dining, boutique shopping, and events like Washington Street Night Market. thorntonparkdistrict.com/

6. Be Amazed by Science

For science lovers of all ages, Orlando Science Center offers a wealth of exhibits and events over four floors, with giant-screen and 3D movies available too. Kids will love the Spark STEM Fest, while adults may prefer events like the Science of Wine. Admission is $24 for adults; $18 for kids ages 2 to 11. The museum is typically open Thursday through Tuesday, 10 am to 5 pm. osc.org/

7. Go to Gatorland

Just a short drive north from downtown Orlando, let out your inner beast at Gatorland. This animal park features 2,000 American alligators (making it “The Alligator Capital of the World!”) as well as other animals like capybaras, wildcats, birds, snakes, and more.

Admission is typically $22.99 for kids ages 3 to 12, and $32.99 for guests 32.99 and up. Gatorland is usually open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. gatorland.com/

8. Soak up Some Fine Art

For art lovers, the Orlando Museum of Art is a must-see. The museum hosts a well-rounded collection of American art, African art, art from the ancient Americas, contemporary art (including works by Robert Rauschenberg, Kerry James Marshall, Jennifer Bartlett, and Nick Cave), and more.

Admission is $20 for adults; $8 for kids ages 6 to 17. The museum is typically open Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, and from 12 pm to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. omart.org/

9. Stroll Through Gorgeous Gardens

Nothing is nicer on a beautiful Florida day than a stroll through Harry P. Leu Gardens. This 50-acre botanical oasis boasts azaleas, bamboo, bromeliads, magnolias, tropical plants, and more, plus a beautiful rose garden, perfect for snapping selfies.

You’ll also find art in the gardens: the Garden House Welcome Center displays both permanent and rotating exhibitions of local and international artists. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4 pm), the garden charges $15 admission for adults, and $10 for kids ages 4 to 17. leugardens.org/

10. Marvel at the Manatees

Winter is the ideal time to see these gentle giants that enjoy the 72-degree weather of Blue Spring State Park. Recent records report more than 700 manatees passing through the park.

Make a day of it and take a hike, take a guided river boat cruise, or kayak through the park. Florida’s parks are typically open from 8 am to sunset, and, because visiting a park is typically free, this can be a great idea for frugal travelers. floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/blue-spring-state-park

The Takeaway

As you can see, there are so many things to do in Orlando, whether you’re visiting with kids, friends, or a partner.

SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members. Through a partnership with Expedia, we make it easy to find the lowest rates and book your reservations — for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and more — all in one place. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. And when you redeem your SoFi rewards for travel, you get a 25% bonus: $100 of reward points are worth $125.


Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.

FAQ

What theme parks are in Orlando?

Under the Disney brand, you’ll find Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom. There is also Universal Orlando Resort, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld.

What are free things to do in Orlando?

Enjoy a walk around Eola Park downtown, visit CityWalk at Universal, or head to nearby beaches, all of which are free activities in or near Orlando, Florida.

How many days should I spend in Orlando?

If you plan to only visit theme parks, three days may be enough for an Orlando vacation. If you’d also like to explore the city, aim for five days.


Photo credit: iStock/VisionsbyAtlee

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
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SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).



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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Richmond, VA

Richmond is one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, but it is also home to a thriving food, music, and arts scene. Whether you’re visiting for work or pleasure, you’ll find plenty of things to do while you’re in Virginia’s capital. History buffs, artists, and foodies all agree Richmond (or RVA, as it’s commonly called) is a special place.

Find out when you should visit, how much you can expect to spend each day on food and lodging, and start planning fun things to do while you’re in RVA. The following list of top 10 fun things to do in Richmond, VA, will get your started planning your trip.

Best Times to Go to Richmond, VA

Richmond is at its most pleasant in spring and fall. Not only is the weather consistently warm during these months, but you’ll also be more likely to hear outdoor music and find food trucks parked throughout the city.

If you’re researching how to save money for a trip, the good news is that the best times to visit Richmond don’t coincide with peak tourist dates, which are typically during the summer months, when many festivals occur, such as the Iron Blossom Festival (music) and Smoke and Vine Festival (wine and cigars).

Bad Times to Go to Richmond, VA

In July and August, temperatures are routinely in the 90s, if not higher. With humidity on top of the heat, it can be a difficult place to enjoy in the height of summer.

Compared to other areas in the U.S., Richmond has pretty mild winters, but January and December can be both cold and damp. While it doesn’t snow too often in Virginia’s capital, early winter may not be the best time to visit, either.

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Average Cost of a Richmond, VA, Vacation

Budget Your Trip estimates that the average daily cost for a hotel in Richmond is $161 a night, though you might find ways to save money on hotels and get a lower rate. Visitors should expect to spend around $17 per person per meal.

In total, this means visitors should expect to spend the following amounts if visiting Richmond for a week:

•  $357 on food for one person

•  $714 on food for two people

•  $1,128 per person for one week

•  $2,256 for a couple for one week

However, these are just averages. You may be able to save even more by finding travel deals.

In addition, you will need to budget for your travel to and from Richmond. That might mean filling up your car’s gas tank, or it could mean finding cheap flights.

Lastly, you may want to budget for travel insurance. Credit card travel insurance may be available, or you might want to buy a separate policy as a bit of security if anything were to go awry.

10 Fun Things You Must Do in Richmond, VA

How, for the top 10 fun things to do in Richmond, VA: This list was culled from savvy travelers, RVA residents, and top-rated attractions on online review sites.

1. Take a Walk in the Park

Looking for free things to do in Richmond, VA? Put Maymont on your list. As New York has Central Park, Richmond has Maymont. This 100-acre park is part zoo, part garden, part meandering trails, but is 100% the heart of Richmond. It’s easy to spend a few hours or even all day there.

Traveling with pets? Sorry: With bears, foxes, goats, and other animal inhabitants in the park, you can’t take your dog.

Try visiting the Italian garden in the spring or the Japanese garden in the fall (you’ll take more than a few pictures of the Japanese maples). If you’re lucky, the waterfall will be flowing while you’re visiting. If so, bring a book and soak up the views. The grounds are open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, with a $5 suggested admission. maymont.org/

2. See an 18th-Century Church

In the heart of what is known as Church Hill is St. John’s Church. Built in 1741, it’s an established historic landmark and is famous for being the place Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Time your visit right, and you may get to see a reenactment of that very speech. Tickets (approximately $15 each) to sit and watch the reenactments are available online in advance.

Once done, we recommend walking around Church Hill. Many of the buildings were built in the early 19th century and are on Virginia’s historic register. There are several restaurants and cafes in the area, and walkable Libby Park gives an excellent view of the James River and the city below. historicstjohnschurch.org/

3. Shop and Sip at Carytown

One of the best things to do in Richmond, VA, is visit Carytown. This neighborhood is known for its eccentric shops and restaurants, and it has something for practically anyone along its mile-long stretch. Window-shop, get a coffee, maybe buy a new book. Then end your day with a classic movie at the Byrd Theater, where on select days throughout the week, an organ player starts the show with select tunes from the olden days.

Carytown is just up the street from Maymont if you want a little bit of culture and nature on the same day. It’s also very close to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which is up next on this list of cool things to do in Richmond, VA. carytownrva.com/

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4. Immerse Yourself in Art

One of the top travel hacks is to find free places to visit when you’re traveling. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is one of the coolest free things you can do while you’re in Richmond.

Which has another benefit: It can be a way that families can afford to travel and soak up some culture.

The VMFA is a world class museum, and has around 50,000 art pieces from around the world. It’s open 365 days a year from 10 am to 5 pm, and has both a cafe and fine dining on premises. Recently the VMFA acquired a sculpture from world-renowned artist Kehinde Wiley titled “Rumors of War.” Be sure to check it out if you visit! vmfa.museum/

5. Explore Some Science

Looking for family-oriented things to do in Richmond, VA? Include a visit to the Science Museum of Virginia. This destination is fun for both kids and adults as each of its exhibits manages to make the natural world seem utterly magical and surreal.

If you have the time, we suggest seeing a movie in The Dome at the museum, which is the largest theater in VA. Also noteworthy is the building itself. Built in 1919 as Richmond’s premier train station, it is a prime example of neoclassical architecture. The films shown explore the natural world, making your visit more immersive.

Admission to the museum, which is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily, is $17 for ages 13-59; a ticket to a feature at the Dome adds $5. smv.org

6. Stroll Through a Great Garden

Searching for fun things to do in Richmond VA for couples? Put the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden at the top of your list. While technically in Henrico County, Lewis Ginter is just a stone’s throw away from the city line.

Established on 50 acres, Lewis Ginter is home to over a dozen unique gardens you can easily spend all day appreciating. If you have children, there is a large, multi-level treehouse on the grounds with a tower that overlooks the park’s central lake. There’s also a conservatory, cafe (where you can earn credit card rewards when charging a snack or meal), garden shop, and library on the property. Admission is $17 for adults; the garden is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with some extended evening hours in the summer and fall. lewisginter.org/

7. Discover Hollywood Cemetery

One of the most unique things to do in Richmond, VA, is visit Hollywood Cemetery. You may not think a cemetery would be worth visiting, but in this case you’d be mistaken. It’s located on over 135 beautifully landscaped acres, with stunning views of the James River and surrounding rolling hills.

This nationally recognized cemetery is the final resting place of many historic figures, such as two U.S. presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler. Even if you’re not a history buff, the architecture of the mausoleums alone is worth a couple hours of your time. hollywoodcemetery.org/

8. Raft or Kayak the James River

Any list of top things to do in Richmond, VA, should include the James River. To be more specific — kayaking or rafting the James.

Throughout the entire United States, Richmond is the only city where you can kayak through a class IV rapids and still be downtown. However, if boating isn’t your thing, you can contact companies like H20 Adventures or James River Reeling and Rafting to help guide you through an amazing afternoon you won’t soon forget.

9. Tour the Capitol Building

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. While Jefferson is famous for other architectural achievements, the Virginia State Capitol is considered one of his best designs. Check the website about opportunities to visit this amazing building. virginiageneralassembly.gov/

10. Eat Well

Richmond has a vibrant food and drink scene, with many excellent restaurants. L’Opossum has some of the best reviews you’ll ever read. It’s been ranked #1 out of Richmond’s 877 restaurants on many review sites. To eat at this French-American fusion, you’ll need to make a reservation well in advance. Other options: Rappahannock Restaurant for oysters, and Perly’s for updated deli delights in a vintage setting.

The Takeaway

Richmond, VA, has a little bit of everything for everyone. Historically, there are many places throughout the city that have been pivotal to major events and national dialogues. Artistically, there’s just as much to admire and appreciate. Whether it’s the food, nature, art, or shopping, Richmond can be an exciting destination to explore.

SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members. Through a partnership with Expedia, we make it easy to find the lowest rates and book your reservations — for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and more — all in one place. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. And when you redeem your SoFi rewards for travel, you get a 25% bonus: $100 of reward points are worth $125.


Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.

FAQ

Is Richmond a walkable city?

Yes, Richmond is very much a walkable city. Not only are there sidewalks throughout the entire city, but you can easily go from city sidewalks to nature trails along the James River. Both drivers and cyclists know to be on the lookout for pedestrians, no matter what time of day it is.

Is Richmond a friendly city?

Overall, visitors from anywhere in the country should be able to find a common ground with Richmonders. It’s an eclectic city and also home to Virginia Commonwealth University, meaning it has a good mix of people.

What part of Richmond should I stay in?

Visitors should consider staying in the downtown area. Downtown Richmond not only has some of the best views of the city and the James River, but it also has a bustling nightlife. With restaurants, bars, and theaters, you may not even need an Uber to get to where you want to go. The Jefferson and the Quirk Hotel both have top-notch restaurants and bars.



Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).



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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Key West

Pastel houses. Six-toed cats. Hemingway. Key West is known for many things, but above all, it’s known for being a place to unwind and relax. Still, in between sipping cocktails on the beach and taking naps, there are plenty of fun things to do in Key West, Florida!

Read on to discover the best times to go and top 10 must-see destinations.

Best Times to Go to Key West

Compared to other parts of the country, Key West is temperate year-round. The best time to visit is from November to April when it’s still warm but you’re less likely to encounter a tropical downpour.

Here are some of the annual events in the Keys:

•  January: Key West Kingfish Mayhem

•  February: Old Island Days Art Festival

•  March: Key West NOW Women’s Film Fest

•  April: Annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration

•  June: Key West Pride

•  July: Hemingway 5k Sunset Run & Paddleboard Race

•  October: Key West Fantasy Fest

By the way, if you’ve never tried traveling solo before, Key West is a great place to do it.

Bad Times to Go to Key West

If you’re thinking about summer travel to Key West, keep in mind that it can get up to the 90s and be quite humid, which may put a damper on your plans. June through October is the wet season, so you’re more likely to get rained out. Many of the best things to do in Key West are outdoors, so plan with the weather in mind.

Average Cost of a Key West Vacation

How much should you set aside for your Key West trip? For a couple planning to stay for a week, the average cost is $4,400. This will, of course, depend on how much you spend on renting a car, accommodations, and dining, as well as activities.

If you choose to stay in a hotel, you’ll spend anywhere from $101 to $460 a night, while a vacation rental will run you $390 to $1,300 per night.

Recommended: Luxury for Less: How to Travel Posh

10 Fun Must-Dos in Key West

Here are the top things to do in Key West, based on popular opinion.

1. Snorkeling

The warm, clear waters of the Atlantic make it ideal for snorkel enthusiasts. Explore the reef near Sand Key Lighthouse and you might see snapper, sea turtles, or nurse sharks. Or take a boat and snorkel at the site of a shipwreck.

Sunset Watersports is one of the many companies offering snorkel tours. You can choose the Rise & Reef Morning Snorkel, Dip & Sip Afternoon Snorkel, Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour, or Sunset Snorkel, depending on your interests. SunsetWatersportsKeyWest.com/snorkeling/

2. Key West Aquarium

If you’re a land-lubber who’s not into snorkeling, you can still get to know the ocean’s inhabitants at the Key West Aquarium. Caress conchs and sea stars in the Touch Tank, feed docile nurse sharks, or take the Sea Turtles Conservation tour. Tickets start at $21.44. KeyWestAquarium.com/

3. Duval Street

By day, Duval Street is a great place to shop and explore attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. At night, it’s a hotspot for drinks and dinner. Craving cocktails? Consider the Duval Pub Crawl, which stops for drinks at places like Sloppy Joe’s and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville — or crawl on your own. There’s also Key West Pub Crawls, which offers a Bone Island Haunted Pub Crawl & Ghost Tour. KeyWestWalkingTours.com

4. Hemingway Home

Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Key West in the 1920s, and this museum is in the home where he lived for many years. During your visit, you can meet some of the famous six-toed cats that are the descendants of the cat Hemingway received from a ship’s captain. Explore the gorgeous gardens, take a tour to learn more about Hemingway’s life in Key West, or buy a memento in the shop. 9am-5pm daily. General admission $18 (cash only). HemingwayHome.com

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5. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Inside this glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat, you’ll discover more than 50 species of butterflies from around the world, as well as a variety of tropical birds. The attraction makes for a popular stop for mother-daughter getaways. 9am-5pm daily. General admission $13.98. KeyWestButterfly.com

6. Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square

Every night is a party with Sunset Celebration. See performers, shop for arts and crafts, sit for a psychic reading, and enjoy great street food every night, starting two hours before sunset. The best part? It’s totally free. SunsetCelebration.org

7. Conch Houses

The pastel wooden houses throughout Key West are known as “conch houses,” and you’ll see the iconic homes represented in local art and souvenirs. Built as far back as the late 1800s, the homes were constructed on posts to allow air to circulate underneath. Most have a porch across the front of the home. Explore neighborhoods on your own, or take the Conch Tour Train to learn some of Key West’s history. ConchTourTrain.com/

8. Key West Cuisine

Key West boasts several unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Start your day with cafe con leche and a pan Cubano at Cuban Coffee Queen. When lunchtime hits, try conch, a local sea snail, in a conch fritter or cracked at the Conch Shack. Later, when you’re ready for something sweet, head for Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, where you can try the traditional key lime pie or something different like strawberry key lime pie or a pie bar. For dinner, enjoy spiny lobster (when in season) or the Caribbean “BBQ” Shrimp while listening to live music. Then roll yourself back to your hotel.

Recommended: Responsible Tourism: 8 Ways Travelers Can Support the Local Community

9. Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum

This iconic lighthouse was built in 1848 and — heavens to Betsy! — run by a woman. It was decommissioned in 1969 and is now open to the public. Climb the 88 steps to view memorabilia from the keepers of the lighthouse, and discover how the lighthouse survived hurricanes and the Civil War. 10am-5pm daily. $17 adults (you can save a little by booking online). Kwahs.org/museums/lighthouse-keepers-quarters/visit

10. Beaches

Once you’ve sampled the local culture, it’s time to do what you came to Key West for: Grab your towel and head to one of many pristine beaches. Depending on how far you want to wander from your hotel, you can set up camp for the day at Smathers Beach, Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach, or the aptly named Rest Beach. You can also drive to one of the other Keys to explore Sugarloaf Beach, Long Beach, or Sandspur Beach. All beaches are free to locals and tourists, making beach time a great option for frugal travelers.

The Takeaway

In Key West, engaging activities, vivid history, exciting nightlife, and delicious food await you. You can choose your own adventure, whether that’s lounging and recharging on the beach or getting out and learning about the history of Key West.

SoFi Travel is a new service offered exclusively to SoFi members. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. Then apply those rewards to your next trip when you book through our travel portal. SoFi makes planning a getaway fast, easy, and convenient — perfect for people on the move.


SoFi, your one-stop shop for travel.

FAQ

How long should I spend in Key West?

Plan for a minimum of three days in Key West. If you have more time, you can stretch out your relaxation and activities.

Where can I see six-toed cats in Key West?

The Hemingway Home and Museum is home to more than 60 of the six-toed cats who are descendants from the cat Hemingway was given by a ship captain.

What should I eat in Key West?

Key West has eclectic dishes you won’t find elsewhere, like pink shrimp, conch, and Key lime pie.


Photo credit: iStock/NAPA74

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).



Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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No Passport? No Problem in These Countries

U.S. citizens take for granted that they can travel for thousands of miles without leaving the country — or needing travel documents. But if you have your sights set on international travel, you will need a passport in most cases.

There are a few countries where you may not need a passport. Keep in mind that requirements for travel can change rapidly, so check with the U.S. Department of State for the most up-to-date information before you hop a flight or set sail.

How Passports Work

A passport is a legal identity document issued by a specific country. A passport is used to verify a traveler’s citizenship. In the U.S., most passports are valid for ten years before they need to be renewed.

Countries Where You Don’t Need a Passport

Here are a few countries where you won’t need a passport if you are a citizen of the U.S.:

North America

In some situations, you may not need a passport to cross into Mexico or Canada by land or sea. If you have a Ready Lane acceptable document, you may be able to use that rather than a passport. These include U.S. Passport Cards, Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, Enhanced Tribal Cards, Enhanced Border Crossing Cards, Enhanced Permanent Resident Cards, and Trusted Traveler Program cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry, or FAST).

U.S. citizens who are under the age of 16 (or those ages 16 to 18 who are traveling with a school, religious, or other youth group) also do not need a passport when crossing into Canada or Mexico by land or sea. They can present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship.

International Cruises

Certain international cruises may not require you to provide a passport, as long as they begin and end at the same U.S. port. Note that this only applies to your ability to enter the U.S. If you don’t bring a passport on an international cruise, the cruise company may prevent you from boarding or you may not be able to disembark the ship when it stops. Check with your cruise company to make sure that you have the documents they require.

Caribbean

You can travel in the Caribbean using the exemptions we mentioned above — either on a closed-loop international cruise or by visiting one of the U.S. territories in the Caribbean. These include the three islands of Puerto Rico — the namesake main island, plus Vieques and Culebra — plus St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, collectively known as the U.S. Virgin Islands. To visit all other Caribbean countries, you will need a passport.

Pacific Islands

There are a few places way out in the Pacific Ocean that you can visit without a passport. Besides Hawaii, the islands of Guam and American Samoa are U.S. territories. All other Pacific countries and territories will require a passport to visit.

Traveling to Guam or American Samoa can make for an amazing trip and may not feel like you’re still in the U.S.

Europe

You will need a passport to enter Europe, including Scandinavia. However, most of Europe is part of what’s called the Schengen Area, where there are no border controls between countries. So while you will need a passport to get into France, for example, you won’t need your passport to travel between France and Germany.

Do I Need an Enhanced or Real ID Driver’s License?

Whether you need an enhanced or Real ID Driver’s License depends on what you are trying to do and where you are traveling to. Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs) are state-issued driver’s licenses that also provide proof of citizenship and identity. Currently, only a few states issue EDLs (Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington), but they may become more popular over time.

The Takeaway

For the vast majority of international travel, U.S. citizens require a passport both to enter into another country as well as to return to the U.S. However, there are a few scenarios where you can use other documentation to enter another country or get back into the U.S. Make sure you fully understand the requirements set by the State Department as well as your travel provider (airline or cruise company) to avoid any messy border situations.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.

SoFi Travel can take you farther.

FAQ

Can you legally leave the US without a passport?

Yes, there are certain situations where you can legally leave the United States without a passport. Depending on the circumstances and the documents you have with you, you may be able to travel by land to Mexico or Canada without a passport. You may also be able to travel on some international cruises as long as they start and end in the same U.S. port. Make sure you understand the guidelines published by the State Department before you leave the country.

Where can U.S. citizens travel without a passport?

Most international destinations require a passport for United States citizens. However, depending on what other documents you have or your specific situation, you may be able to board an international cruise or travel by land to Mexico or Canada without a passport.

What is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) is a U.S. initiative started in 2004 as a way to streamline entry to the United States from various other countries in the Western Hemisphere. As part of the WHTI, U.S. citizens can present other documents besides a passport when entering the United States. These may include a passport card, Trusted Traveler card (such as NEXUS or Global Entry). Make sure you understand the requirements published by the U.S. government to avoid a sticky situation at the border.



Photo credit: iStock/xavierarnau

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).



Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Fort Lauderdale

You’ve likely heard of Fort Lauderdale as a top spring break destination, but the town has loads of things to keep vacationers busy almost any time of year. Known as “the Venice of America” due to its inland waterways, you can explore Fort Lauderdale by water taxi or kayak, as well as take in its beautiful parks, shop on Las Olas Boulevard, and (of course) hit the many amazing beaches nearby.

Learn more about the top 10 best things to do in Fort Lauderdale here, as well as tips to make your getaway go as smoothly as possible. Once you’ve got your itinerary and travel plans wrangled, you’ll be set to enjoy the sun and the fun.

Best Times to Go to Fort Lauderdale

The best time to go to Fort Lauderdale is in the spring, between March and May. Average temperatures are in the 80s, and it is not too humid or rainy. The fall and winter (from early November onward) is also a good time to go to Fort Lauderdale, as it can be less crowded but still enjoy good weather, also in the 80s.

The winter holidays are a great time to escape cold weather and visit this Florida hotspot. You may not be able to go swimming in the ocean due to chilly water temperatures, but otherwise you can probably have a great time.

Bad Times to Go to Fort Lauderdale

Summer in Fort Lauderdale can be hot, humid, and rainy. Average temperatures are in the 90s. June is the rainiest month, so summer travel may be the worst time to go to Fort Lauderdale.

Although spring is a wonderful time to go to Fort Lauderdale, try to avoid school spring break time, which is usually mid March through early April. It can be more crowded and expensive due to all of the families and students who are traveling.

Average Cost of a Fort Lauderdale Vacation

Fort Lauderdale is a relatively affordable vacation spot. Hotels in Central Beach, near the ocean, will cost you around $250 to $400 on a typical weekend in April. If you are wondering how to save money on hotels, try staying in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, which is still a central location and hotels cost $180 to $300 on the same weekend. The average hotel cost is around $192 per night.

On average, one week for a couple costs about $2,549; for one person, that would be $1,275 for a week-long stay. Of course, you should factor in other costs when budgeting for your trip, like car rentals, rideshares, food, entertainment, plane tickets and/or gas.

When budgeting for a trip, you should also think about where to keep travel funds. Ideally, you can sock away money in an interest-bearing account, like a savings account that earns an above-average rate of return. Typically, this means an online bank vs. a traditional one.

If you are thinking about booking a trip to Fort Lauderdale but are worried that you may have unforeseen circumstances and have to cancel your trip, you can look into travel insurance. If you pay for your trip with certain credit cards, they may provide travel insurance. You should understand how credit card travel insurance works when deciding whether to purchase private travel insurance or use your credit card protections.

10 Fun Must-Dos in Fort Lauderdale

Florida is mostly known for beaches, but there are plenty of other things to do in Fort Lauderdale. This list of the top 10 must-dos in Fort Lauderdale was curated from frequent travelers’ and residents’ recommendations, as well as online review sites. Included is a mix of favorite destinations, free activities, and some off-the-beaten-path ones. The list includes things that you can do with a family, by yourself, with a partner, and with a group of friends.

One important note: If you are going on a Fort Lauderdale vacation trip, you may want to look into renting a car. Many of the attractions on this list require a car to get to. If you don’t want to rent a car, you could also take rideshares or limit your activities to ones within walking distance of your hotel.

That said, here are the top 10 fun things to do while visiting Fort Lauderdale.

1. Head to Fort Lauderdale Beach

What is a trip to Fort Lauderdale without a beach? Fort Lauderdale Beach is a typical Florida beach to enjoy at no charge, making it one of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale. With four miles of palm-tree lined beaches, this coastline is an iconic destination.

Yes, Fort Lauderdale Beach has some typical partiers, but it is also very family-friendly. Bringing your own towel, chairs, food and beach toys can be how families afford to travel to beach destinations.

2. Eat Well

While you’re at the beach, you’re likely to get hungry. Fortunately, there are great restaurants nearby, serving everything from great grilled cheese or Cuban sandwiches (try the popular Padrino’s Cuban) to fresh fish, caught just a few dozen yards away (say, at Sea Watch on the Ocean). Or just beat the 3 pm slump with some coffee; the Alchemist’s patio is a top spot.

3. Shop Las Olas Boulevard

Las Olas Boulevard is a well-known street in Fort Lauderdale with many restaurants, shops, art galleries, and museums. Many of the shops are upscale with recognizable designer names, so prices may be high (swipe or tap with your plastic to pay, though, and you could earn some hefty credit card rewards).

Traveling on a budget? Window-shop while enjoying that warm Fort Lauderdale weather.

4. Visit Historic Stranahan House Museum

The Historic Stranahan House Museum, Fort Lauderdale’s oldest surviving home, is located off Las Olas Boulevard. A founding farmer, Frank Stranahan, built Stranahan House in 1901. It’s a wood-frame vernacular building with wide porches in front that take in incredible view of the New River. The structure has served as everything from a home to a town hall to a post office in its 100+-year history. Today, visitors can visit the museum by taking a guided tour, which are offered at 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm, with the exception of major holidays, and cost $12. Advance booking recommended. stranahanhouse.org/

Recommended: Where to Find Book Now, Pay Later Travel

5. Stroll Through Flamingo Gardens

Flamingo Gardens is a botanical garden and Everglades wildlife refuge located 17 miles from downtown Fort Lauderdale. As the name indicated, yes, you can see those unusually colored flamingos, as well as freely roaming peacocks, plus sea otters, panthers, and alligators. There are lush gardens, too. Run by a nonprofit organization, Flamingo Gardens is open every day between 9:30 am and 5 pm, and costs $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children. There is a free tram tour through the park that runs between 11 am and 4 pm. flamingogardens.org/

6. Immerse Yourself in Butterfly World

If you would rather see butterflies than flamingos, Butterfly World may be an attraction to visit; it’s definitely a fun thing to do in Fort Lauderdale. Here’s why: It’s home to more than 20,000 live butterflies and more than 50 species. It’s a magical experience to see them up-close and in such great numbers.

Butterfly World is located in Coconut Creek, about 15 miles from downtown Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices are $32.50 for adults and $22.50 for children. It is open 7 days a week, typically from 9 am to 5 pm, and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Sunday. Hours are subject to change due to weather, so check before visiting. butterflyworld.com/

7. Be Amazed at the Museum of Discovery and Science

Keep your brain engaged in between beach visits. The Museum of Discovery and Science has a variety of fascinating exhibits, like ones that give you a deep dive into dinosaurs, space, gravity, ecology, and food. Located in the City View neighborhood, the museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm except Thanksgiving day and some local holidays. Tickets cost $24 to $27. mods.org/exhibits/

8. Hop on a Water Taxi

Fort Lauderdale is known for its waterways that weave through the verdant Florida landscape. The Water Taxi lets you see the city from the water, while learning about its history during the narrated ride. You can hop on and off at 11 stops on the Water Taxi. Tickets range from $15 to $35, and it operates 7 days a week between 10 am and 10 pm. watertaxi.com/

9. Spend Time at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Ready to hike, kayak, or just take in the view? Head to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, located between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. The park has coastal dune lakes, where you can canoe or kayak, plus a top-notch coastal trail that will have you trekking through a native maritime tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem.

Incidentally, if you are traveling with pets, there’s a dog beach at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Canine Beach is a 100-yard stretch of coastline where you and your doggo can frolic.

The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is open every day from 8 am to sunset, and costs $6 per vehicle for up to eight people, or $4 for a single-occupant vehicle. floridastateparks.org/HughTaylorBirch

10. Live Large at Gulfstream Park

If you’re looking for a break from the beach and craving entertainment, try Gulfstream Park, another of the 10 best things to do in Fort Lauderdale. The Park features a thoroughbred horse racetrack, which can be a total thrill. Plus there’s dining, outdoor shopping, a casino, a bowling alley, and an entertainment venue. Horse races are held every Wednesday to Sunday from December through September. There are special events throughout the year, like the annual Florida Derby in March or April. And here’s a plus: There’s no admission fee to the racetrack, making it one of the fun free things to do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. gulfstreampark.com/

The Takeaway

Florida is a popular destination for some of the best weather and beaches in America, and Fort Lauderdale has all that and more. It can be a great place to vacation for its natural beauty and sun, but it also offers terrific museums, dining, shopping, and other attractions. Whether you have a full week or a long weekend, this Southern Florida destination can make for a memorable getaway.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.

Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.

FAQ

What is Fort Lauderdale best known for?

Fort Lauderdale is best known for its beaches, arts, and shopping. Along with beautiful beaches, Fort Lauderdale has canals and a historic riverfront to explore as well.

What is the famous strip in Fort Lauderdale?

Las Olas Boulevard is located in Fort Lauderdale and has shopping, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and more. For those who like shopping or window-shopping at designer boutiques, Las Olas Boulevard is a top destination.

Is Fort Lauderdale a walking town?

Some areas of Fort Lauderdale are walkable, like Las Olas Boulevard. However, if you want to explore multiple areas or attractions of Fort Lauderdale, you will likely need a car to cover the distances involved.


Photo credit: iStock/Cassanas

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).



Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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